Harvard Grad Students Start 'Resistance School'

Sessions taught by former Obama campaign staffers

Memorial Church at Harvard University
April 5, 2017

A group of Harvard graduate students are starting a "resistance school" to oppose President Donald Trump.

The grad students, who consider themselves a progressive version of "Dumbledore's Army," have enlisted former Obama staffers to teach the class sessions. The syllabus includes readings on "Black-Palestinian Queer Reciprocal Solidarity."

"On November 8, we lost more than just the presidency," the website for the free online course reads. "We lost yet more ground in the decades-long campaign against progressive values. Republicans now control the Senate, House, and more state legislatures than they have in almost 200 years. Those losses have emboldened the right to launch an all-out attack against our nation's creed—that all are created equal."

"Like so many Americans, the election moved us—a group of progressive graduate students at Harvard—to ask ourselves: How can we most effectively fight Trump's agenda?" the students continue. "What we came up with: Resistance School."

The "school" involves four in-person lectures that will be live streamed to local "resistance" groups around the country during the month of April.

The goal of the course is to "keep the embers of resistance alive through concrete learning, community engagement, and forward-looking action."

The students organizing the course, which was first reported by CNN, promised a syllabus that "you'll actually read."

Readings for the first session, "How to Communicate our Values in Political Advocacy," includes essays on Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, and the "intersectionality" of "Black and Palestinian Queer Struggles."

"Many of us have been struggling with how to channel our personal response to Trump's presidency into cogent and impactful political action," reads the description for the first session, which begins Wednesday evening. "The opening session of Resistance School will delve into the critical first step of this process: effective communication for change. This session will draw on the political history of the United States to explore how activists have used valued-based communication to galvanize support for political and social movements."

The reading list includes "A Vision for Black Lives" released by a Black Lives Matter group, the "Mission and Vision" statement from the Women's March on Washington, and an article entitled, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color."

The resistance school reading list does include the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as well as the essay, "Reciprocal Solidarity: Where the Black and Palestinian Queer Struggles Meet."

"In this essay on Black-Palestinian queer reciprocal solidarity, we recognize how our bodies and life stories are marked for subjugation and even erasure, while also considering the toll of intersectional and structural forms of violence on our bodies and spirits," the essay published in Project Muse reads.

A "Values Worksheet" of "shared values" of groups participating in the course will be created following the first session.

Other sessions include "How to Mobilize and Organize our Communities" taught by Sara El-Amine, a former executive director of Organizing for Action, President Obama's dark-money group.

El-Amine now runs a "training and consulting practice out of San Francisco, where she and her team help Fortune 500 companies, civic tech startups, and new grassroots groups scale their programming and deepen their engagement while improving their impact, using tactics that are consistent with the values of outcomes."

A third session, "How to Structure and Build Capacity for Action," will be taught by Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government and former community organizer and United Farm Workers leader.

"President Trump's election highlighted the long-term organizing effort needed to reestablish a progressive vision for our country," the session description states. "Our movement needs the structure and capacity to outlast any attack on our values and to move to offensive strategic effort."

The final session on April 27 is entitled "Onwards: How to Sustain the Resistance Long-Term."

Michael Blake, a former Obama campaign aide and recently elected vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, will teach how to "build coalitions that leverage the talent and expertise of organizations across the progressive community."

The resistance school said its team also includes former staffers of Obama, Bernie Sanders, and the failed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Published under: College Campuses , OFA